TOPEKA – The city of Wichita is at odds with a local state senator over a bring-your-own-bottle bill.
As it stands now, House Bill 2331 would allow any business not regulated by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Department to let patrons bring and consume their own alcoholic beverages.
That provision was inserted as a Senate floor amendment Thursday by Sen. Michael O’Donnell, R-Wichita.
It replaced earlier language that would have allowed customers to bring their own bottles to art studio events.
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That has some Wichita police and officials concerned. They say it complicates law enforcement and could lead to more “after hours” club drinking, with accompanying fights, stabbings and shootings.
“A lot of bad things happen in those scenarios,” said Dale Goter, a spokesman and lobbyist for the city government.
In addition, he said it could create a pathway to stay in business for “bad actor” club owners who have had their liquor licenses revoked.
The bill has taken a complicated path through the Legislature that could become even more complicated in the coming days.
It arose in an effort to allow participants to bring wine to the increasingly popular paint-your-own-picture events held by art studios.
The bill was amended on the House floor to allow BYOB at all businesses where alcohol isn’t sold.
After a hearing at which Wichita expressed its concerns, a Senate committee dialed the exception back to art events. Goter said the city has no problem with that.
But O’Donnell said he also heard from a Wichita cigar shop owner who wanted his customers to be able to imbibe while they smoke.
He said he sees his amendment as a check on the regulatory power of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Department and as supporting small business.
“At the end of the day, we should allow businesses to operate and not force them into closure,” he said.
O’Donnell’s amendment passed on a voice vote.
O’Donnell was a Wichita City Council member before he was elected to the Senate.
He said he now feels “blindsided” by city officials. He said the only communication he got from the city was one council member who complimented him on his handling of the bill.
“Not one person from the city of Wichita contacted me to say they had a problem with it,” he said.
Goter said the city didn’t contact O’Donnell because nobody there knew he was going to float a floor amendment on what they thought was a settled issue.
On Tuesday, the House declined to concur with the Senate on the bill, which will toss it back into a House-Senate conference committee.
Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, said she’ll work to get the BYOB provision limited once again to art studios.
The conference committee meets at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
“We’ll fix it there,” Faust-Goudeau said. “I’ll make sure we talk about that in the committee and on the Senate floor.”
Both Faust-Goudeau and Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Wichita, said they think the change in the bill got through mainly because it was done by floor amendments and most legislators were likely unaware of Wichita’s concerns.
Brunk said he’s honor bound to represent House positions on the conference committee.
But he also noted that Wichita, the state’s largest city, could only express its concerns about the bill in the Senate, because the BYOB provision wasn’t in the bill until it had already reached the House floor.
Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.